Spark, January 2013

15 Rutherford Place
New York, NY 10003
New York Yearly Meeting News
Volume 44
Number 1
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) January 2013
Editor, Steven Davison    



Introduction to the Issue on the Gathered Meeting

Six Friends responded to our invitation to write about the gathered meeting and a number of themes run through virtually all of them. The first is a deep passion and yearning for the gathered meeting and a conviction that it lies at the heart of Quaker spirituality. In fact, one says that it was the gathered meeting that convinced him to be a Friend and several believe that it is the key to attracting new members. All of our authors take a hand at describing their experience of the gathered meeting. Several express concerns about how seldom meetings these days experience being gathered and what factors might both hinder and foster the gathered meeting—and how powerful it would be if gathered meetings were more common.

We invite you to consider what the gathered meeting means to you and to your meeting, and what you might do to nurture the experience in your home meeting.

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~ Theme Features: Recognizing Gifts in Ministry ~


Ministry & Money—A Proposal

~ Chris DeRoller and Mike Clark, Powell House Youth Directors ~

Every Powell House Youth Conference ends with singing and silent worship. We aim for 20 to 30 minutes of silence. Often though, time slips away from us and we have only 10 or 15 minutes left before lunch crew is needed. When that happens, we tell the kids, “We’re going to do power worship, get to that deep place quickly.” They laugh. Then they do it. After a weekend of opening to one another, it really doesn’t take long to settle and go deep.

Not at every conference do we manage a gathered meeting, especially in the younger age groups. Some of the young kids feel coerced and some are used to being told that they can’t sit still. If we’re lucky and we have enough time though, the foot tapping ceases, the leafing through the songbooks stops, the young attendee hidden in a pillow pile emerges and joins the circle. Energy shifts in the room and the stillness is alive in a profoundly different way.

We often close with each person sharing a few words on how they’re feeling at the moment. There are inevitably one or two “bored”s and a few “hungry”s, as the kitchen is awfully close to our worship space, but mostly we hear things like this:

  • full,
  • content,
  • relaxed,
  • loved and loving,
  • connected,
  • thoughtful,
  • ah,
  • happy to be here, sad to be going.

The teen-age groups usually do not leave the circle right away when we break. They come out of the silence slowly. They reach out to touch physically. They share quietly what they were thinking. They reflect and respond to messages that others offered in the silence. They linger in the spirit, together.

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The Gathered Meeting for Worshi

~ Don Badgley, ~

We Friends often speak of the miracle of the gathered meeting, that exceptional worship in which individuals are not just touched by the Divine Presence but in which all are touched as one and share awareness of one another being touched. This is the Living Source that we aspire to weekly and yet acknowledge as rare.

Why is it rare? The answers to that question may point directly to the fading heartbeat of the Religious Society of Friends in the 21st century. In our annual state of the meeting reports nearly every monthly meeting names weekly worship as central to the life of the meeting, and yet, despite this, we have mostly accepted that the miracle of gathered worship is uncommon. Again, we must ask why.

If the gathered meeting is atypical, then we should not be surprised that new members are so rarely attracted to our faith community. In truth, the gathered meeting should be as common as the Love that calls us into community and as infinite as the Light that leads us.

“. . . for when I came into the silent assemblies of God's people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart, and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me, and the good raised up, and so I became thus knit and united unto them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life, whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed.” ~ Robert Barclay

If such were the common experience of our worship, we would publish that Truth broadly and with joy. The fruit of that tree would be sweet and the seeds would scatter and grow. Were it the norm, the result would increasingly order and discipline every aspect of our lives. It could not be otherwise.

It seems that there are several realities that may weigh upon the Spirit of Worship in our meetings today. One is what we might simply call the tyranny of the clock. When meeting is scheduled to end, by god it ends, lest the squirming and confusion begin. And, of course, assembling before the appointed time to center early is as uncommon as the on-time handshake is the rule. Overlay the coming and going of our youth and the distractions of inevitable latecomers and centered meeting for worship is often reduced to a brief interlude.

Another concern is more delicate for us to consider: ministry. There is the ministry of Holy Silence in the expectation of The Presence. There is the Spirit-led vocal ministry that sometimes arises in the hush. Each has its struggles in our meetings. If a spoken message is keyed to current politics, a personal anecdote, or a recent NPR story, should we question whether it arises in the Spirit or is appropriate in worship?

If vocal ministry feels restrained or infrequent and the silence sometimes feels empty, should we question the life and truth of that worship? Might the burden of raising such concerns threaten the very gathering we seek? Though these questions are rhetorical, our Ministry, Counsel, and Worship Committees may need to labor with them. Every meeting should nurture Spirit-led ministry and Spirit-filled silence as central and paramount. We should invite Friends traveling in the ministry to worship with us.

Finally, it also seems that we do not recognize or support eldership in some of our meetings and, in some meetings, we actually mistrust it.

Change is difficult and so long as we succumb to the tyranny of the clock and eschew a gentle eldering that encourages ministries of the Light and discourages ministries of the intellect, we will continue to experience the gathered meeting only rarely, if ever at all.

It is worth remembering that Friends have not done away with the priesthood but rather we have done away with the laity. Thus we should gather with that understanding in our hearts as we seek the Grace that arises in gathered worship.

Two queries may assist us:

Do we enter into worship in expectation of the Divine Presence as we also hold our fellow worshippers in our hearts and in the Divine Light that covers us?

Do we enter into worship with quiet centered joy, knowing that God is present within each of us and present among us to lead our worship?

May we be gathered in the Light.


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To Make the Gathered Meeting Possible

~ Anita Paul, Schenectady Meeting ~

Friends have experienced the “gathered meeting” for centuries and have written about this treasured experience. A gathered meeting is not a fantasy of early Friends or an archaic use of words that we can't understand or experience. The Spirit invites all of us to participate in a gathered meeting. One of the foundational beliefs of Friends is that The Holy wants to be known to each and all of us directly. It was reading that in the writings of Thomas Kelly that brought me to my first Friends meeting. But our Gracious God will not impose an immediate and undeniable infusion of Divine Love on us if we are unwilling or actively rejecting that possibility.

A gathered meeting is essentially a group mystical experience, a sense of unity within The Holy. Those present are reluctant to break the meeting, or to speak at the close of worship, so covered by Presence are they that Friends look in wonder at each other: did you feel/sense that, too? Such a treasured and sweet time that all long for it again.

Before you dismiss this possibility as hocus pocus, irrational, or downright scary, reflect that many down-to-earth, supremely rational people have reported participating in a gathered meeting. But know that meetings and individuals must plow the field before The Seed is dropped in. That is, if we expect meeting for worship to be anything more than a personal time for reflection on the week past, on what to pick up at the store on the way home, or musings on what one heard on NPR, we must dig deeper.

Moreover, we can't start our digging once a week on Sunday. We must find time everyday to invite The Holy into our lives, to sit and listen deeply for the words that are trying to speak to us. We must arrive at worship on First Day ready and prepared to pick up where we go everyday.

Further, the testimony of community arose out of the experience of the gathered meeting, which means that most if not all of us must arrive ready, each realizing our responsibility to the group and anticipating the possibility of being gathered in the Spirit. Clearly that includes not arriving late.

This union with Divine Love creates unity among those gathered for worship. That experience of community with the Divine and each other is the 'communion' of Friends meeting. If actively sought, the gathered meeting will be found.

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The Covered Meeting

~ Roger Dreisbach-Williams, Rahway & Plainfield Meeting ~

S ettling into worship—gathering myself from travel, touching on a centering prayer-song, holding various people and communities in the Light—and then . . . it is no longer about what I am doing because there is a Presence in the room, sometimes a seeming thickness in the air, but time stops: eternity enters and awe fills my heart.

Sometimes the Presence will give someone words to speak, words that resonate and take me to a place where human speech is jarringly inappropriate. More often, there is no vocal ministry, only Grace-Love-Peace-Joy. Others will enter, and the Presence accepts them. Someone leaves, but part of them stays behind.

Eventually comes the sense of release. Meeting ends and we greet one another in the afterglow of what we have experienced. Typically, several of those present have shared the experience, but not necessarily all. The doctrine that it can only be a covered meeting if everyone experiences the Presence limits it too much. I’ve been in meetings that I thought were covered and had one or two say that they had not experienced it, and I’ve been in meetings that others said were covered but I did not have that experience. The Presence is greater than any of us.

Meetings for business can be covered. Words stop. Out of the Silence, Truth is spoken and those present feel the Presence acting among us. Decisions are not ‘made’ so much as ‘revealed’.

Looking back, it was in a covered meeting that I experienced what I could only describe as ‘true religion’ and became a Quaker. I didn’t know what it was called, all I knew was that a force much greater than I am had rearranged the molecules of my soul. I was not the same as when I had come to meeting that morning. I had found my home.

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~ Robert Kendall, Manasquan Meeting ~

Trying to explain a gathered meeting to a non-Quaker is a very useful empirical exercise, in that it forces a Friend to consciously explore his or her own perception, prejudice, and perspective about what is, perhaps, the intrinsic part of the Quaker experience.

George Fox attributed his ultimate understanding of Jesus to an empirical manifestation of the presence of the teacher. The extremely empirical manifestation of a “gathered meeting” could be an individual’s preliminary introduction, or beginning consciousness on the path that will lead to convincement.

In Fox’s sealed epistle, opened after his death, which was perhaps his last written public declaration and testimony, he says, “Keep all your meetings in the name of the Lord Jesus, and keep them gathered in His name, grace, truth, power and spirit; by which you will feel His blessed and refreshing presence among you and in you to your comfort and Gods’ glory.”

“Gathered in his name” is the rudimentary beginning of gathering. “Waiting in the silence to hear that still small voice that reached the prophets’ ear,” to quote John Greenleaf Whittier, is the nexus of the gathered community in worship. And then there is everything else implicit to us in the term “gathered,” that moment when “his blessed and refreshing presence is among you and in you . . .”

How can you explain the myriad levels of silence to people who live in a world that seems dedicated to filling every moment with some kind of noise, either deliberate for distraction or incidental to the hubbub we call modern life?

To me “gathered” might be that moment when all fall silent in unison and in simple acknowledgment of a joyous community of faith; but certainly not only that! A case could be made that just coming together is to be “gathered,” as Fox seems to imply in his sealed epistle; but certainly not only that.

I know there are different levels of “gatheredness” (if I may be allowed that construct), but that kind of quantitative evaluation diminishes the purity of the experience by trivializing those moments that are not as intense as others. When a silence becomes almost loud in its absolute pervasion, in its all-absorbing completeness, so that everything else is gone, it is hard not to differentiate that experience from other less intense moments, when viewed in retrospect. However, this type of evaluation is a worldly form of score keeping that only succeeds in preventing a person from seeing the ocean of light that exists beyond the sea of darkness.

“We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praise to his name he forgets not his own.”

Words and music: Nederlandtsche Gedenckclanck, 1626; trans. Theodore Baker, 1894.

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The Gathered Meeting

~ Steven Davison, Yardley Meeting (PhYM) ~

This article is longer than the version published in the print edition of Spark. It includes two new sections "The current state of the gathered meeting" and "The fulfillment of the essential Quaker promise."

The gathered meeting is, I believe, the essential, distinctive Quaker religious experience. It provides a bridge from our roots in the early Christian church through the emergence of primitive Quakerism to our own experience today. It fulfills one of the essential promises of Quaker faith and practice, that the worshipping community can commune with God directly. (By “God”, I mean the Mystery Reality behind our religious experience, whatever that experience is.) Unfortunately, it seems to be occurring less and less often. Yet in the gathered meeting lies the hope for a vibrant, relevant, and growing Quakerism of the future.

A short history of the gathered meeting

The gathered meeting runs as the essential thread of spiritual ignition in our tradition. This began with the original gathering experience of Jesus' early followers. It reemerged in the birth of the Quaker movement, and in it Quakerism has found its Guide ever since.

The first recorded gathered meeting in our root tradition was the baptism of Jesus, in which all assembled shared a psychic experience of God’s revelation in some way. This continued in the event we call the transfiguration, in which Peter, James, and John were all caught up with Jesus in a vision of Moses and Elijah. Whatever else those events were, they were gathered meetings for worship in which Jesus and his friends were all gathered up into a shared religious experience. The defining example of a gathered meeting in our root tradition was Pentecost, in which several thousand were converted to the Way that Jesus taught in a manifestation of the Spirit through the apostles’ vocal ministry shortly after Jesus' death.

The term gathered meeting comes, I suspect, from several passages in Christian scripture, and especially, from Jesus' teaching in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, on how to elder wayward members. It ends with this promise: "wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I also." This promise is the foundation of Quaker worship, and especially, of Quaker meeting for business in worship.

The first recorded gathered meeting in our Quaker tradition was the fulfillment of George Fox’s vision on Pendle Hill of a “great people to be gathered” (see note below)—the convincement of the Seekers at Firbank Fell in 1652, the initiation of the Spirit that jump-started our movement. The journal of George Fox and of many other early Friends and continuing through all the periods of Quakerism into at least the middle of the 19th century are full of descriptions of meetings that were covered by the Holy Spirit and "the power of The Lord." (“The power of the Lord was over all” was their way of saying that a meeting was so overflowing with the Holy Spirit that some Friends quaked.)

The current state of the gathered meeting

At some point, though, something seems to have happened to our experience of the gathered meeting. I am not well enough read in Quaker journals to know when Friends stopped focusing on the gathered meeting in their journals. I've read Elias Hicks's journal, published in 1832, and he talks about it all the time. But by the time Michael Sheeran discusses it in his book Beyond Majority Rule (published in 1983), the experience had become rare enough that he remarks upon it.

Though not a Friend, Sheeran's book is an excellent exploration of Quaker decision making in the meeting for business in worship. He clearly and rightly distinguishes between secular consensus decision making and the way of Friends seeking the sense of the meeting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—that is, seeking the unity that comes from the gathered meeting.

Sheeran wrote his book when the tensions between "Christ-centered" and "universalist" Friends were ramping up. At one point he says the real difference between Friends lies not along this much discussed divide, but rather between those who have experienced the gathered meeting and those who have not. Those who have experienced the gathered meeting trust that God can and will bring the meeting into unity as long as the body remains in worship and is faithful. Those who have not experienced the gathered meeting have trouble letting go of their own agenda. By contrast, when the meeting has been gathered, everyone realizes that a decision has been made even if they still do not agree with it, because they can feel the presence and power of the Spirit at work among them.

But what is this experience? What is happening in a gathered meeting and what does it mean?

What is the gathered meeting?

We have two wonderful discussions of the gathered meeting in Quaker writings, that of Thomas Kelly in his classic little pamphlet of that title, and William Taber's discussion in Four Doors Into Quaker Worship. I would like to add my own observations and meditations, based on my own experience of the gathered meeting.

Several of the gathered meetings I've experienced have occurred during a meeting for worship with a concern for business, in moments when seemingly insurmountable obstacles to unity suddenly melted away and the body was able to go forward in joy, usually following some powerful vocal ministry.

In that moment, the worshippers are present to each other, aware of each other's presence, and we share a unity of mind and spirit: we see our way forward together and the sharing fills us with a kind of joy. Joy—that is the hallmark of the corporate religious experience of gathering—a thrilling sense of knowledge, a bonding of the worshippers in a shared consciousness of presence, unity, and joy.

This shared consciousness, this intimacy between our minds and our spirits, this being conscious of each other's intention, creates a supra-consciousness—a living synergy of mind and spirit that is greater than the sum of our individual consciousnesses. This "greater-than-ness" suffuses us individuals with a fullness of mind, a fulfillment of spirit, and a transcendental joy.

In the gathered meeting, we are lifted up, and when we look around us, we see that others have been lifted up, as well. And we all know.

We know the truth, the truth of that moment, a momentary miniature of a transcendent truth that is deeper than what we are experiencing at the moment and yet one with it. Usually, this t/Truth comes through some inspired vocal ministry. When experienced in the meeting for business in worship, this vocal ministry gathers all the threads of seeking together into a bundle of greater truth that opens the way for the meeting into unity of purpose.

In the silence of a meeting for just worship, it can come as a cascade of increasingly powerful vocal ministries, in which each offering sinks us even deeper into that peace that passes all understanding. In that moment, we also know each other. Not in some outward sense, but inwardly and psychically. We sense each other as present. We each know the truth of that moment, and somehow we also know that the others know! And they know that we know. And we know that they know that we know. We all have been gathered up into a cloud of all-knowing—not that we know all, but that we all know.

All this is real. We know that it is real because we have suddenly found ourselves in unity and in joy. And yet it is transcendental. It transcends the senses, certainly, since no one has said or done anything to confirm its reality—we just know. It transcends usual consciousness. And it transcends individuality—it is a collective experience.

And this knowing of each other and of the Truth and the joy that comes with it—this is knowing God. Or, to turn the semantics around, the mystical collective knowledge of God is, for Friends, the concrete experience of being gathered, of being lifted up into the cloud of all-knowing in the gathered meeting for worship.

The fulfillment of the essential Quaker promise

I said at the outset that the gathered meeting is the fulfillment of one of the essential promises of Quaker faith and practice. I see four essential promises of Quakerism, and from these four arise all the distinctives of Quaker faith and practice:

  • The Light. We each as individuals can have a direct, unmediated relationship with the Divine. [“That was the true Light, which lighteth every [person] that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9 KJV) “There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.” (George Fox) "There is that of God in every person."]
  • The gathered meeting. The worshipping community also can commune directly with God. [”For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 KJV) “Christ has come to teach his people himself.” (George Fox)]
  • Continuing revelation. God is always newly revealing God’s self to us. [“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all the things I have heard of my father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15 KJV)]
  • The testimonial life. We each are called to live our outward life as a testimony to the Truth that has been inwardly awakened within us. [“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) “Let your lives speak.”]

So we have been promised direct communion with the Divine, both as individuals and as a community. The gathered meeting fulfills these promises.

And the gathered meeting touches the other essentials of Quaker faith and practice:

  • The Light. The gathered meeting cements our individual faith; it renews our commitment and our pleasure in the practice of our faith. It confirms that each of us is, in fact, capable of experiencing God’s love and guidance.
  • Continuing revelation. When the breakthrough in a difficult meeting for business comes, when the truth we have been seeking finally arrives, it comes from the gathered meeting; it comes as the gathered meeting; it brings with it the gathered meeting. Continuing revelation is the fruit of the Spirit of the gathered meeting.
  • The testimonial life. Similarly, the testimonies also are the fruit of the Spirit of our being gathered into the Truth. The Quaker movement comes to unity about a new testimony through a series of gathered meetings. One by one, meetings find themselves in unity with some new understanding of God’s wish for us, until we arrive at some critical mass and we all share a new Truth. When that Truth is awakened in us as individuals as our own truth, this awakening, this work of the Spirit within us, is also a kind of gathered meeting—we have been gathered up as individuals into the collective cloud of all-knowing.

Seeking the gathering

All this makes seeking the gathered meeting one of the highest priorities for our meeting communities. And yet it seems to be declining among us. So how do we foster the experience of the gathered meeting? In his little pamphlet The Gathered Meeting, Thomas Kelly cites two conditions for the gathered meeting. One is preparation: worshippers whose own regular devotional practice has prepared them to center quickly, surely, and deeply when they come to worship, who already have a strong communion with the Divine, and who use the morning before they arrive at the meetinghouse to prepare themselves even more fully. These forms of preparation are essential, he says, for the experience of gathering.

The second condition Kelly discusses is vocal ministry that is truly spoken “in the Life.” For it is the spoken ministry that very often opens the door into deepest worship.

Bill Taber in Four Doors into Meeting for Worship discusses another aid to being gathered: the spiritual work of elders, meaning anyone who takes responsibility for the spiritual health of the meeting. These Friends come early and prepared. With their own centering they help prepare the meeting room for worship before other Friends gather; when the others enter the room, the newcomers can sense that worship has already begun. With their own deepening as the meeting progresses, the elders help to open the way to the depths. With their prayers they hold the other worshippers in the Light, helping to relieve the rest of us of our burdens and distractions, so that we may find the way that lies open, and especially, holding us with their prayer when we rise to give vocal ministry.

I would add two more factors that are more concrete and might seem easier to do in theory, but actually are very difficult to achieve in practice: sitting close together, and showing up on time. Some time ago, New York Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Counsel Coordinating Committee (as it was then called) sent queries to monthly meetings about the gathered meeting for that year’s State of the Society Report. Two of the queries asked what, in the meetings’ experience, fostered the gathered meeting, and what hindered it. By far the most common response was sitting close together—and sitting far apart.

Every meeting I have been to has corners in the meeting room where some Friends like to sit, far away from the main body of the meeting, often as far away as you can get. Try to deny these Friends their little nook and they will be furious. We all know how we feel about where we sit . . .

But it is true, I think, that melding our limited little auras in a continuous cloud of spirit really helps us gather, and that means sitting close enough for those fields, or waves, or pheromones, or whatever medium is at work here, to do its job. I don’t know how to solve this problem, and it’s getting worse in many meetings that are shrinking in size but still meet in the same space, one that often was designed for a much larger meeting.

Likewise with tardiness. Again, I do not know a meeting in which all worshippers regularly enter the meeting room before the hour begins. Some Friends just will not enter the meeting room on time, even if they get to the meetinghouse on time. Quaker convention has it (and in this we agree with the practitioners of every other spiritual discipline I know) that it takes twenty minutes for a human being to shed the world outside and begin to deepen. And that’s if you already practice some deepening discipline regularly. Tardiness pushes back in time the centering of the whole meeting, and therefore reduces the chances that it will get deep enough to gather. However, like the issue of seating in the meeting room, tardiness is one of those problems that Friends seem virtually incapable of solving.

The gift that is the gathered meeting

The gathered meeting is the distinctive form of spiritual nurture that we Friends can offer to those who seek real communion with God. Quaker ministry, loving each other and taking care of each other in pastoral care, and the gathered meeting­—these are the spirit and the heart and the soul of the Quaker religion. And the gathered meeting is the key to Quakerism remaining a living, evolving religion, a religion that, through continual revelation, is always renewing itself and adapting itself to the changing spiritual needs of the time.

If we nurture the spiritual gifts of those who come to us, if we lovingly embrace them into our fellowship, and if they experience the gathered meeting in worship, they will know who we really are. They will know what Quakerism is and what it has to offer them. They may then join us, and our meetings will thrive. But more importantly, we will have brought them to God, to the Mystery Reality behind true communion!

Thus, I believe that fostering the gathered meeting, lovingly caring for our members, and nurturing their spiritual lives and ministries are the three essential missions of our meetings.


Note: I wonder whether Matthew 23:37 may have been on George Fox’s mind when he saw “a great people to be gathered” in his vision on Pendle Hill at the beginning of his ministry: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” A number of other biblical passages use gathering in the harvested grain or the flocks as metaphors for the final judgment, and these may also have informed early Quaker use of the word “gathered”; examples include: Matthew 12:30, 13:30, 24:31, 25:26, 31-32, and Luke 3:17. Back to text

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Quaker Resources on the Gathered Meeting

The Gathered Meeting, Thomas Kelly; Tract Association Pamphlet, $0.35.

The Eternal Promise: A Sequel to A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly; includes two essays: "The Gathered Meeting" and "Hasten unto God."

Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, William Taber; Pendle Hill Pamphlet #306.

Worship: The Gathered Meeting Revisited, Tom Gates; Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship, George Gorman; Swarthmore Lecture 1973.

Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless Decision Making in the Religious Society of Friends, Michael Sheeran; Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Being A Quaker: A Guide for Newcomers, Geoffrey Durham; has a chapter on the gathered meeting; Britain Yearly Meeting.

Invitation To A Deeper Communion, Marcelle Martin; Pendle Hill Pamphlet #366.

The Dynamics of An Unprogrammed Meeting for Worship, Mary Hopkins; Quaker Press of FGC.

Journeying the Heartlands: Exploring Spiritual Practices of Quaker Worship, Alec Davison and Elizabeth Brown, editors; The Kindlers.

The Practice of Quaker Worship, Larry Miller; Quaker Press of FGC; pamphlet ($0.85).

Quality and Depth of Worship and Ministry, The Committee on Eldership and Oversight, Britain Yearly Meeting. Ripening of Quaker Worship, David Bills; Southeastern Yearly Meeting.

Shaped by the Light: The Quaker Experience of Worship, Community and Transformation, Michael Wajda and Alison Levie; Southeastern Yearly Meeting.

Touched by God in Quaker Meeting, Kenneth Carroll; Pendle Hill Pamphlet #338.

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~ Other Features ~

Sabbatical for the General Secretary

Christopher Sammond, New York Yearly Meeting’s General Secretary, has been with us since 2004. Most of us have had some contact with him. Perhaps he has visited or led a retreat for your monthly meeting, or you have participated in a Powell House weekend that he has helped to lead, or you have attended a Yearly Meeting (YM) session where he has given his report; or perhaps you have served on a committee that has benefited from his spiritual groundedness.

Yearly Meeting personnel policy holds that full time employees are entitled to a sabbatical of two to four months after seven years of service. Plans for the General Secretary's sabbatical leave must first be vetted by the Supervisory Committee for the General Secretary (SCGS), and then approved by the Personnel Committee. The SCGS met with Christopher and agreed that his plans for a sabbatical met with the criteria for the policy and the Personnel Committee has also given its approval.

Our policy stipulates that the leave would be “revenue neutral” (it would have no impact on the operating budget), and that the Sabbatical would “contribute to the skill set of the employee or their spiritual growth.” Following the sabbatical, the employee must commit to working for the Yearly Meeting for at least one year.

Christopher’s sabbatical will extend from mid-February 2013 to mid-June 2013. During that time, he will be resting in the Spirit, something he feels is essential for him to continue giving service grounded in God. It will be a time of prayer, study, reading, and reflection. He also feels called to a time of prayer and discernment about extractive industries in general, and fracking in particular. He will be examining the cultural constructs that support fracking, and will seek to articulate an alternative set of norms and cultural assumptions that would support a different vision of how we might live.

SCGS has consulted with Christopher over the purpose of his leave, the benefits it will bring to himself and the Yearly Meeting, and how his responsibilities will be carried out during his leave. Several of these responsibilities, including staff supervision and visits to monthly meetings, will be handled by volunteers. We will miss his contributions to the YM, we wish him the blessings of rest in the Spirit, and we eagerly await his return in June.

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Powell House Youth Program Schedule

For 4th and 5th Graders:
January 25–27 Fantastical
March 1–3 Ark-tecture
For 6th to 8th Graders:
February 1–3 If It Were Up To Me
March 22–24 Mythically Speaking
For 9th to 12th Graders:
February 8–10 Really Now?
April 19–21 Tuning In, Opening Up, Drawing Together
For High School Age and Young Adults:
March 8–10 Shhh . . . Do You Feel That?
Family Friendly Conferences:
February 15–17 Winder Wonderland
February 22–24 Creativity & Spirituality
March 29–31 Work Weekend & Messiah Sing


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Powell House on the Road

Adult Quaker Continuing Education

Powell House Youth Directors Chris DeRoller and Mike Clark share youth conference facilitation with Young Adult Co-Facilitators, and this opens a few extra weekends a year when we can go on the road to regional meetings and monthly meetings. Out of our 12 years of experience working with children and adults in Quaker settings, we’re offering half-day and one-day workshops. These are true “work”-shops, hands-on experiences with some instruction but lots of roll your sleeves up and get the job done (or at least started). We’re asking meetings to provide space, childcare, travel expenses, hospitality, and publicity. We’ll need a minimum of 12 participants for optimal results, the more the merrier though, and we’ll require registration ahead of time. We ask for a $20 donation to Powell House per person at registration so that people commit to come.

For more information or to look at possible dates, give us a call at 518-794-8811 Wednesday-Friday or email us at [email protected].



Community-Building Games and Activities
Designed to explore the art of community building and broaden your repertoire of group activities. It will be tailored to meet the needs of those who come. It’s a “play as you go” workshop where you’ll learn a variety of games and other activities suitable for wherever you need them: work, monthly meeting, church, committees, even family events. We’ll evaluate how and why the activities work and look at ways to modify them for specific situations. Discussions will center on what you’re trying to accomplish in the groups you are a part of and obstacles that you have or may encounter along the way.

First Day School Fundamentals
How do you design a first day school program that addresses the needs of your children, your meeting, and the wider body of Friends? You’ll dig down to the roots of what you want out of a First Day School program and what you (kids, parents, meeting members) truly need. You’ll also look at what constraints you face. Then we’ll begin to work with you through the necessary steps in designing a custom First Day School program for your monthly meeting.

Jumpstarting our Jalopies: Structuring Committees that Work
Often, our faith meets the road through the work of committees. Frequently, potholes, traffic jams, and no gas in the tank slow us down or stop us completely. We’ll look at committees as vehicles to get us where we’re going and find practical and doable ways to increase our miles to the gallon.

So When You Say God, You Mean …
Quakers tend to be a diverse lot, especially on the theological front. Our experience of trying to live honestly with the natural tensions created by our differences is both a source of friction and a catalyst for transformation. Opening ourselves to others, especially on matters of the spirit, may seem like risky business. But when it works, it is exhilarating. Come share your experience of meeting for worship, God, not-God, and other things that can’t be contained.

Breaking Down Boxes—A multigenerational exercise in …
What boxes do you inhabit? Join us for a session on unlabeling. Opening to others. Opening to self. Opening.

Roller Coaster Ride: Parents and Kids Gatherings
Parenting. Growing up. Sometimes terrifying. Often exhilarating. Impossible to get off once you’ve started. Is it easier or harder as a Quaker parent or a Quaker kid? This is an opportunity to share about the ride so far, to celebrate each other, and to buckle up for what may come next. Lots of games, small group discussions, affirmations. Time together and time apart.

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Quaker Meeting—A Haiku

Jennifer Arnold

The first time I went
I thought I would laugh out loud.
Now I am laughter.

Jennifer Arnold, December 7, 2012, Manasquan NJ

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Around Our Yearly Meeting

Meeting Notes

Update on the Old Chatham Meetinghouse

Construction of the Old Chatham meetinghouse is in the final phase, with meeting volunteers and contractors happy to have heat in the building and busy installing light fixtures and preparing to lay the flooring. On the exterior, others are busy putting the final touches on the design of the ramp and installing lights in the parking lot.

Old Chatham Monthly Meeting would like to express our deep appreciation to individuals and groups throughout the Yearly Meeting who have responded so generously to our requests for financial and other support. We now have enough funds to bring the building to a level of completion that will allow us to obtain that much anticipated Certificate of Occupancy.

If you are visiting Powell House or traveling elsewhere in our region, do come have a look. We are just across County Route 13 from Powell House. We would be pleased to open the building so that you, too, can enter the timber-framed meeting room and feel the Light and Love pouring in.

See for more pictures, including Friends in action with table saw or paint brush.


Chatham-Summit Meeting hosts screening of Brother Outsider
A documentary on the life and civil rights work of Bayard Rustin

DATE: Saturday, February 2, 2013
TIME: 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm
PLACE: Chatham-Summit Monthly Meeting, 158 Southern Boulevard, Chatham, NJ 07928-1324
COST: Free and open to the public. No registration required.

Friends are invited to join Chatham-Summit Meeting for a light meal followed by a screening of the award-winning documentary Brother Outsider.

This film presents the life and work of Bayard Rustin, the black Quaker activist who planned the historic 1963 civil-rights march on Washington, DC. Rustin played a key role in persuading Martin Luther King and his advisors that Ghandian nonviolent protest was essential to the success of the civil rights movement. Yet, despite his eloquence and strategic brilliance, Rustin was denied public leadership roles, largely because he lived openly as a gay man during an extremely homophobic time. The historian John D’Emelio has called Rustin the “lost prophet” of the civil-rights movement.

We are especially happy to celebrate Bayard Rustin’s important contributions to racial equality because 2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the march on Washington.

After the film, we are planning to have a panel of informed guests to lead a lively discussion of Bayard Rustin’s contributions and the relevance of his civil and human rights legacy to current political and social events.

Please join us! Invite your family and friends, and begin the new year by learning more about one of America’s most significant events—the March on Washington—and its chief architect, Bayard Rustin.

FOR MORE INFORMATION—At Chatham-Summit Meeting, contact Robin Whitely, [email protected]. On the web:



Quaker Voluntary Service
Young Adult Opportunities

Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) is now accepting applications for the 2013-2014 program year for sites in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Portland, and encourages young adults to apply for this yearlong program. Participants will live in a Quaker intentional community, serve full-time with local community organizations, participate in a dynamic program exploring the growing edges of the Quaker Way, and receive support from QVS and local Friends meetings and churches. We partner with many dynamic organizations in each of our cities. Visit for descriptions of current placements and confirmation of further sites, for more information, and to apply. Applications are due by March 15, 2013.


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Aging Resources Consultation and Help

ARCH logo

The gathered meeting just feels that way, right? That feeling is based on trust, connection, and a sense of community. We build these treasured bridges and connections when we share the concerns of our community members who are aging or who are disabled.

Chris Japely, a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting and an ARCH Visitor, reports that their First Day School children made cards and sent them to housebound, elderly, and other Fifteenth Street folks who would be heart-warmed to receive a card from the meeting (via the children!). A gathered meeting is the whole community, including (and even particularly) the children and the seniors. Creating that sense of that gathered meeting doesn’t just happen: we make it happen.

ARCH’s acronym has stood for Aging, Resources, Consultation, and Help. But as we considered how ARCH relates to the gathered meeting, we decided to update those last two letters to better reflect our ministry. We do still consult and help! But we are strengthening our communities—helping those communities to care for each other. Our “C” is for Community. And while a lot of what we do is offer practical support, the root of this is spirit-led, coming from the heart. So our “H” is for Heart.

ARCH is a program of NYYM funded by Friends Foundation for the Aging that enhances our meetings’ pastoral care for aging and disabled adults.

ARCH trains volunteer Visitors, equipping them with tools for a ministry of caring for those facing the challenges and changes of aging and living with disability. We offer workshops to meetings and groups to help us all nurture our communities that support and are enriched by their aging and disabled community members. We also offer individual consultations to those in need of direct support.

ARCH Upcoming Events

February 9 Workshop: Life Stories & Care Teams, at Housatonic Monthly Meeting

March 8-10 Visitor Training, in Syracuse

For information or to request a workshop in your community, contact us! [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].


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Meeting for Discernment

March 2, 2012

Our next Meeting for Discernment will be held at Brooklyn Monthly Meeting on March 2, 2013 (with a snow date of March 9). This is an opportunity to spend time in extended worship, listening for God’s call for New York Yearly Meeting. We will be held by a body of elders as we consider the following queries:

For the morning session, focusing on monthly meetings:

What are your dreams, yearnings, and hopes for your meeting? What is God calling your meeting to become?

For the afternoon session, focusing on the yearly meeting:

What are your hopes, leadings, and expectations for our yearly meeting as a gathered body? What work is God calling us to do together that we cannot do separately?

Details have yet to be finalized, but the timing will look something like this: Light breakfast foods will be available during registration, beginning at 8:30. We will settle into worship at 9:00, out of which we will consider the morning’s queries. After a break for lunch at 12:00, we will gather for the afternoon session from 1:00 – 3:45. At 4:00, we will reflect on what we have heard. We will end at 5:00. Those who are interested are invited to join the steering committee and elders for an additional time of reflection on the day, at about 5:30.

Brooklyn Meeting is located at 110 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please watch InfoShare and for information on registration, transportation options, and hospitality, or contact Lucinda Antrim, Clerk, Meetings for Discernment Steering Committee, at [email protected] or 914-473-2981 for contact information for the host committee.

We very much look forward to seeing you there.

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Position Announcemnt

Global Ministries Director, Friends United Meeting

Friends United Meeting (FUM) is seeking qualified applicants for the Global Ministries Director position. This full-time, Richmond, Indiana-based staff person will receive a competitive salary, including benefits.

A successful applicant for this position will possess:

  • A growing personal faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.
  • A commitment to and be actively involved in the work and witness of Friends.
  • Extensive leadership experience in Christian ministry/non-profit organization, preferably in a global context.
  • An ability to translate vision into concrete and sustainable programs and partnerships in multiple locations.
  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills.
  • Effective staff management ability, including oversight of staff in remote locations.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Capacity to listen to and work well with others.
  • Willingness and availability to travel.
  • Theological literacy.
  • Master’s degree preferred.

Resume and a letter of interest may be emailed to Colin Saxton, FUM General Secretary, [email protected], or 101 Quaker Hill Dr., Richmond, IN 47374.

A complete job description is available on the FUM website at or by contacting the FUM office at [email protected] or (765) 962-7573. Applications will be received through January 31, 2013. Contacts with finalists and interviews will be scheduled after the close date, with an anticipated start date in Spring 2013.

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New Members

Andrew Thomas Simmkin – Poplar Ridge
Elizabeth Stewart Simkin – Poplar Ridge
Vell K. Smithers – Poplar Ridge


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